Mumford & Sons: Five Songs With All Sorts of Christian Undertones

It always fascinates me to see a musician/artist/author/actor with massive commercial success draw upon his/her Christian faith.

I’m only a casual fan of Mumford & Sons. I honestly don’t listen to much music. I do think, however, that one can draw an interesting contrast between Marcus Mumford’s gut-wrenchingly genuine (albeit sometimes flawed) lyrics, and the hollow, cliched lyrics of some of today’s “Christian bands”.

So I present: five Mumford & Sons songs with Christian undertones.

1. Lover of the Light

Stretch out my life
And pick the seams out
Take what you like
But close my ears and eyes
Watch me stumble over and over

I had done wrong
You build your tower
But call me home
And I will build a throne
And wash my eyes out never again

But love the one you hold
And I’ll be your goal
To have and to hold
A lover of the light

2. Below My Feet

And I was still
I was under your spell
When I was told by Jesus all was well
So all must be well

Just give me time
You know your desires and mine
So wrap my flesh in ivy and in twine
For I must be well

Keep the earth below my feet
For all my sweat, my blood runs weak
Let me learn from where I have been
Oh keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn
Oh keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn

3. After the Storm

And after the storm,
I run and run as the rains come
And I look up, I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.

Night has always pushed up day
You must know life to see decay
But I won’t rot, I won’t rot
Not this mind and not this heart,
I won’t rot.

And I took you by the hand
And we stood tall,
And remembered our own land,
What we lived for.

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

4. White Blank Page

And can you kneel before the king
And say I’m clean, I’m clean…

Lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life
Oh, lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life

5. Sigh No More

Love; it will not betray you
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be

There is a design, an alignment to cry
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be

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11 thoughts on “Mumford & Sons: Five Songs With All Sorts of Christian Undertones

  1. Mumford & Sons is a favorite of mine for these very reasons. Brilliant music, and intelligent ( and frequently theologically profound) lyrics. Not perfect by any means, but pretty darn awesome.

  2. Yep great point Matt. Know of any other “secular” artists with Christian undertones?

    • I’m really not as up-to-date on modern music as I should be, haha. But U2 comes to mind as an immediate example. Another “secular” band with plenty of songs infused with Christianity.

  3. This is an interesting point, about how words are latched onto for one’s own understanding.

    Try this interview:
    http://www.bigissue.com/features/1488/mumford-sons-we-re-fans-faith-not-religion

    “Their second album, meanwhile, the Biblically-titled Babel (a broodier, moodier affair), positively pulses with religious imagery: “a brush with the Devil”, “I set out to serve the Lord”, “I was told by Jesus all is well so all must be well”, tales of “temptation” and “fickle flesh”. It seems Babel might be the official statement of their Christian faith.

    “No, it’s not a statement of faith,” clarifies Mumford. “We don’t feel evangelical about anything. Really. Other than music.” A strained conversation ensues, Mumford deciding the language used “is more social than religious, verging on philosophical”. Suddenly, for the first time in your correspondent’s entire ‘showbiz’ interviewing lifetime, the word pluperfect comes up.

    “The lyric you said, ‘I set out to serve the Lord’,” he notes (from the song Whispers in the Dark), “no one realises it’s pluperfect tense. The lyric is ‘I had set out to serve the Lord’. It’s looking back at a time when that had happened.”

    So there’s themes, loosely, of your struggles with a Christian upbringing? A young Christian man who sold his soul to the rock’n’roll Devil and perhaps has now come back to his faith?

    “It’s not about that at all, sorry!” he hoots. “I don’t even call myself a Christian. Spirituality is the word we engage with more. We’re fans of faith, not religion.”

    “We’re just writing songs that ask questions. Sometimes the best way to go about exploring a question, things we wouldn’t necessarily talk about in conversation, is by writing a song. That’s why it’s quite hard… unpacking your songs. You write them in moments of privacy and… inadequacy. In articulation. When you can’t really express how you’re feeling, so you write it down with poetic licence and vent as much as you want.”

    One song, Broken Crown, is astounding, a furious howl of indignation, Mumford hollering, “I’ll never be your chosen one… the pull on my flesh was just too strong… I hit the road and I ****** it all away” .

    “It’s an angry one, that one,” he nods, unleashing his colossal, booming guffaw. “I’m never gonna tell you who or what it’s about though. Heheheh!”

    Marcus Mumford studied the classics at school and his words are enriched by that, and inspired by several sources, and so are not specifically Christian. On the interview web page linked above, look at some of the comments, and at how disappointed some of the readers are that Marcus is not the Christian poet they seem to have thought he was. All too eager to read their own stories, their own desires, into a story someone else is telling.

    Of course Marcus is heavily influenced by his Christian upbringing – why wouldn’t he be. There’s more of that here on page 3 of this interview:
    http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/mumford-sons-rattle-and-strum-20130328?page=3

    But he sounds much more like a man on a journey of discovery; and as he opens himself up to discovery there’s no telling what he might figure out.

    So, we can all interpret stories our own way. Here’s my interpretation of a story.

    There might have been a rebellious young Jewish man called Jesus, who believed in a god, but who was dissatisfied with the way the story of god was being used; he saw much hypocrisy in his fellow faithful, and much persecution from the pagan Romans. He rebelled against it. But I feel he would have been equally dissatisfied with the religion made in his name, with its idolatry of him – while hypocritically denouncing all other idolatries. He’d have been astonished at the irony of the Christian church, and particularly of the wealth of the Roman Catholic church.

    Christianity is a misguided distortion of the teaching of some mixed up Jewish boy who didn’t like what he saw in his time. It’s not as if Jesus had any access to any knowledge whatsoever that might have enlightened his view of natural human behaviour, or how brains work, and how his own mind could be persuaded to believe in gods and miracles, by the simple emersion in tradition and the cumulative effect of praxis.

    Marcus Munford seems to be following the same path of discovery that has happened to many young people through the ages. Without knowing more of his personal background it’s difficult to say how much effort he has put into challenging the faith he was indoctrinated into.

    Maybe he’s doing what many religious people do on being dissatisfied and confused by the way religion is performed – finding fault with the human implementation of it while clinging to the underlying ideal. Most religious reforms have been about that – maintaining a faith while needing to change the religion. Of course the only other alternative is to give up the faith too, by seeing it all as a human pantomime – but then those stories are written off by the religions, as apostasy; the ex-faithful are excommunicated to be silenced, to be heard from no more, anything that prevents a challenge to the actual faith.

    The language of the classics and the religions are rich with emotion, mystery, allegory, vagueness – all the ingredients that allow us to read into music what we want to get out of it. It’s not surprising that the words of the songs contain religious undertones, and even less surprising that religious people seek out and find far more than is actually there.

    Try this page:
    http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/3530822107858723674/

    And read the comments. Some see simply a human love song, while others see religious meaning through and through. It’s easy to see what you want to see. It’s easy to read into songs what the author didn’t put there. That’s how they become popular, by broad appeal, by triggering thoughts that were already in the head of the listener.

    It’s no surprise that the bible is so easily used to tell the stories of so many varieties of Christian and non-Christian belief. There’s enough contradiction to provide opportunity for pretty much any interpretation.

  4. For honest, real, and passionate, I suggest Plumb. Over her career, she has explored many practical issues of faith. From the goth-anguished “Cut,” to the bouncy “Just One Drop,” to the steady “God-Shaped Hole,” to the quirky marriage celebration “Chocolate and Ice Cream” and even sweet lullabyes for her children. She is about the only “can’t miss” in our collection.

  5. The lead singer is definitely influenced by his upbringing. His parents are national leaders in the Vinyard churches in the UK. Marcus is also well read, and likes to throw Shakespeare into the mix. As a visual artist, it’s hard to grapple with being a “Christian artist” verses being an artist who is a Christian. Somehow the expectations and even the quality standards differ. I believe the same applies for musicians. I’m a fan!

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  8. The left is pressuring them. In recent interviews they’ve claimed not to be Christian. I hope they didn’t mean that. Their music is good. But they’d be great if they stood for something. Especially for something that is under assault right now.

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